steve jobs

There are several observers like Christopher Bonanos and Erik Calonius who have pointed out that Steve Jobs was always inspired by Edwin H. Land, the founder of Polaroid and the inventor of Instant Photography. According to them, Edwin was as popular in his time as Jobs was in his time. In 1972, he made the covers of both Time and Life magazines, probably the only chemist ever to do so. As one notices the life of Edwin more and more, he/she can realize how closely Jobs resembled him.

Steve Jobs admiration for Land was quite open and can be deciphered from his declaration, “The man is a national treasure. I don’t understand why people like that can’t be held up as models: This is the most incredible thing to be — not an astronaut, not a football player — but this.”

Both Edwin and Jobs has built multi billion-dollar companies on inventions which has transformed the whole world. Both were autodidacts, college dropouts (Land from Harvard, Jobs from Reed) who more than made up for their lapsed educations by cultivating extremely refined taste and both of them used to wipe out flaws like no other. Lets see some more qualities that both of them had in common and why Jobs admired him so much!

Delivering innovation with perfection!

Most importantly, observers have pointed out that Edwin used to believe in scientific demonstration which was not just intriguing but also addictive. In the 60s, Edwin used to turn Polaroid’s shareholders’ meetings into dramatic showcases for whatever line the company was about to introduce. He would create extraordinary settings, take the product in hand, run the slides in the background and created magic with his explanations. He was clearly not any sort of typical salesman. Similar traits were undoubtedly shown by Steve Jobs, an inspiration to entrepreneurs all over the world.

A perfectionist-aesthete

Like Land, Jobs was a perfectionist-aesthete, exhaustively obsessive about product design. The amount he spent on research and development, on buffing out flaws, sometimes left Wall Street analysts discouraging the purchase of Polaroid stock, because they thought the company wasn’t paying enough attention to the bottom line. (When a shareholder once buttonholed Land about that, he responded, “The bottom line is in heaven.”)

The folding SX-70 camera was a supreme invention and it was as luxurious as the IPod was 30 years later. At the touch of a hand, it collapsed down to a flat, clean pocketable prism, beautifully finished in brushed chrome and leather. Source says that Land spent as much as $2 billion on developing the camera and the time was 1960s!

Innovation was the core ideology of both Jobs and Land

We must agree to the fact that Jobs had an accurate eye to innovation. Drastic commonalities could be found between Jobs and Edwin in innovation as well. This was confirmed by John Scully himself after Jobs and Scully made a visit to Edwin Land, after Land was pushed out of his own company, Polaroid:

“As we sat together around a large conference table Dr. Land remarked that great products like his Polaroid instant camera aren’t really invented by any of us; they’ve always existed, right there in front of us, invisible—just waiting to be discovered. 

Steve Jobs immediately connected to this and said that the Mac too existed for a long time. It was waiting for Jobs to come and discover it for the world.

Scully drove back after the meeting, stunned. “Both of them had this ability to—well, not invent products, but discover products,” he wrote later.

Both of them were king of their own instincts!

The inventions of Steve Jobs and Edwin Land were a result of their deep instincts and was not subjected to market demands because the market itself didn’t know it needed something they created.

Steve Jobs, in his meeting with Land, added that he didn’t believe in market research and trusted his own instincts as he could see what others could not. Land, like Jobs, believed the same. Land once said, “Every significant invention must be startling, unexpected, and must come into a world that is not prepared for it. If the world were prepared for it, it would not be much of an invention.”

Dedication like no other!

Steve Jobs is well known for the kind of dedication he gave at building products, he would often forget his health and clothes while building PCs. Well, his mentor, Land was no less who used to work for 20 hours a day forgetting to eat and wearing the same clothes days after days.

Land told a reporter once, “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing to excess … My whole life has been spent trying to teach people that intense concentration for hour after hour can bring out in people resources they didn’t know they had.”

Steve Jobs remarked something very similar to this, “We have a short period of time on this earth … My feeling is that I’ve got to accomplish a lot of things while I’m young.”

Had to leave the company they built and the company’s fate were no different! 

Exactly like Steve Jobs, Land was forced out of the company he built. Not just the founders, but the companies also met the same fate. After losing Edwin Land, Polaroid started deteriorating rapidly resulting in a lot of bankruptcies and reorganizations. Similarly, after Jobs departure, Apple lost a huge amount of its head start to Microsoft and the cheap-PC business

No surprise but Jobs predicted Polaroid’s decline immediately after Land was forced out. He said, “The Company without Land is a ‘vanilla corporation’, meaning, the company has lost its way ad doesn’t matter anymore to the world.”  This fact explains how great companies are defined by their leaders.

And all this happened because Land believed in his instincts. In the mid 70s, he involved himself in a project called Polavision. It took more than a decade to develop the product but once it made into the stores, it was clobbered by Sony’s burgeoning Betamax video cameras. Eventually colleagues began to question his infallibility. He was then not fired directly but quit the company as it became hard for him not to win in the end.

Does your company hold the same kind of vision? Let us know by commenting below!

Pratibha Goenka

Passionate about entrepreneurship. Loves to follow her heart. An avid startup analyzer, a voracious reader and an ardent traveler.